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EU official pledges full support for Irish Brexit talks

EU official pledges full support for Irish Brexit talks
The European Union's Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier has pledged the 27-member bloc's full support for Ireland's negotiations.

"Today (Thursday), in front of these two houses, I want to reassure the Irish people: in this negotiation Ireland's interest will be the Union's interest," said Barnier, while delivering a speech to a joint sitting of the upper and lower houses of Irish parliament. "We are in this negotiation together and a united EU will be here for you," he said. Because of its historical, geographical and economic ties with the UK, Ireland is in a unique position, Xinhua news agency reported.

"With the depreciation of the sterling, Brexit is already having an impact on the value of Irish exports to the UK. In particular, the agri-food sector," he said. "If the conditions are right, a close partnership with the UK is in everybody's interest. And in Ireland's interest in particular," he added. Barnier said the UK has been a member of the EU for 44 years and that it should remain a close partner with the bloc.

At a summit held in Brussels on April 29, the leaders of the 27 remaining EU countries adopted unanimously the Brexit guidelines.

According to the guidelines, the EU, throughout the negotiations, will maintain unity and act as one with the aim of reaching a result that is "fair and equitable for all member states and in the interest of its citizens". The two year timeframe of Brexit negotiations ends on March 29, 2019.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's 1998 peace deal will need to be amended in the wake of Britain's vote to leave the European Union as it contains references to the bloc, former British prime minister Tony Blair said on Friday.

Blair helped oversee the agreement between Irish nationalists and pro-British unionists, which brought an end to three decades of bloodshed that killed 3,600 people, in one of the biggest achievements of his 10 years in power.

"The Good Friday or Belfast Agreement was formulated on the assumption that both countries were part of the EU ... Some of the language will therefore require amendment because of Brexit," Blair told a gathering of center-right European People's Party.
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